Personal Injury Info

Understanding The Contributory Negligence Defense

Let’s say you’re driving on Granby Street in Norfolk, Virginia going 15 miles over the speed limit. You then notice a traffic jam  up ahead and you slam on your brakes causing the vehicle behind you to hit your car. You wind up suffering injuries from the collision and file a personal injury claim against the other driver’s auto insurance company. However, a claim representative calls you and says they are not going to offer any settlement because you were “contributorily negligent.”

You may be thinking, “Contibu-what?”

Contributory Negligence Explained

I encounter this situation on a regular basis with car accident injury clients. Virginia is one of the few remaining states in the entire country that still applies contributory negligence. You see, every state adopts and applies their ownnegligence laws. The overwhelming majority of states have adopted and apply a “comparative negligence” system which apportions fault based upon the degree of negligence of each party. Virginia, on the other hand, is one of the few states that still applies contributory negligence which asserts that if an injured party contributes to their harm, even by just 1 percent, they could be prohibited from obtaining a money damage award through a personal injury lawsuit.

It is an unfair and archaic doctrine dating back to English rule. Nevertheless, it remains the law of the land in Virginia, North Carolina, the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Alabama.

Fairer System Used By Majority of States, But Not Virginia

As mentioned, most other states follow some form of comparative negligence, either “pure” or “modified” comparative negligence.In “modified” comparative negligence states, an injured party could be prohibited from recovering damages through a personal injury lawsuit if they are found to be 50% or 51% at fault for causing the accident. Comparative negligence laws allow a judge or jury to analyze the facts and evidence and assess fault. Any compensation awarded would then be determined based on the degree of fault assessed by the judge or jury. It is simply a fairer system for analyzing harms and losses in a personal injury lawsuit.

Talk to an Experienced Norfolk, Virginia Personal Injury Lawyer

Understanding negligence law is important when considering filing a personal injury claim against another driver’s insurance company. You should speak to an experienced Norfolk personal injury attorney to determien your legal options. Just because a claims adjuster accuses you of being contributorily negligent does not mean it is true. You and your Norfolk car accident attorney need to review the available evidence such as photographs from the scene of the wreck, eye witness testimony, and whether any citations were assessed by Norfolk police.

To get a free case review, contact Emily today.


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